Thursday, April 30, 2009
It's 1964, St. Nicholas in the Bronx. A charismatic priest, Father Flynn, is trying to upend the schools' strict customs, which have long been fiercely guarded by Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the iron-gloved Principal who believes in the power of fear and discipline. The winds of political change are sweeping through the community, and indeed, the school has just accepted its first black student, Donald Miller. But when Sister James, a hopeful innocent, shares with Sister Aloysius her guilt-inducing suspicion that Father Flynn is paying too much personal attention to Donald, Sister Aloysius sets off on a personal crusade to unearth the truth and to expunge Flynn from the school. Now, without a shard of proof besides her moral certainty, Sister Aloysius locks into a battle of wills with Father Flynn which threatens to tear apart the community with irrevocable consequence. Written by Miramax Films
My Review: Okay I am just your average gal, but the first thing I wondered was "What is the deal with the nun bonnets?" I know...silly, because there is so much more to this movie, but I think that is one of my faults when watching a film at home. I get too comfortable and start to let my brain float on its own weirdo tangents. It is my very own Butterfly Effect. But seriously, I went to Catholic school and the nuns wore those horrid scarfy things. No one wore little black bonnets. I also realized why my mind went off. My mind wandered because I went to Catholic school and my natural reaction is to do something that is going to get me in trouble. Oh the tales I could tell you! If there was a kid who was going to get caught passing a note, making a face, or giggling, it was me. So naturally I have grown up to be the woman who cannot pay attention properly to the movie.
No actually I did. My mind works that way too. I take in a lot of things while my mind just buzzes on in an attempt to distract myself from the more serious matters at hand. Somehow there is always that one part of my mind that will say "Shut up and pay attention." I got over the habit thing and realized that this movie was totally hitting the mark for me. The strict tone of Sister Aloysius was so on point it was scary! I knew several sisters like her who simply would not mess with our fussing. We also had a totally loveable priest who reminded me of Father Flynn. I am afraid none of our nuns were sweet, innocent and darling like Sister James, but it didn't make her character any less believeable.
Amazing acting is pretty much a given when you put Meryl Streep into a role, and Phillp Seymore Hoffman really is outstanding as well. You kind of expect that this has to be good, but really it is beyond good. You are given a good idea of what has possibly gone on but you do not know the truth. I have to say that Sister Aloysius is so hard and abrasive you want her to be proven wrong, but I also wondered what I would do if I believed what she believed?
This movie creates a lot of questions and doesn't give you a lot of answers. It does make you think and it makes you sad. The story is well done. The acting is superb. The setting is spot on.
My husband and I both thought it was a great film.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Lion UK (April 1, 2009)
Cherie Blair is a human rights lawyer and campaigner on women's rights and empowerment, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and author of Speaking for Myself. Steve Chalke is UN.GIFT special advisor on human trafficking, and founder of Stop the Traffik. He is the author of several books, including Change Agents, Intelligent Church, The Lost Message of Jesus, and Trust.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $16.95
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Lion UK (April 1, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
One day Sunni and Wihini simply didn’t turn up. Street children often tend to disappear for days, as they try to scrape a living sweeping long-distance trains, but they had been attending the center daily for three months, so when a week or so went by the project staff became worried, and went in search of their parents. The workers found the father lying drunk on the station platform. When they roused him and asked about the children, he admitted that a man had come to him one morning offering money for them. He needed money for alcohol, so he agreed. The trafficker had taken Sunni and Wihini away for the equivalent of just 20 British pounds (currently equivalent to $30 US dollars). The father was angry because he had never received his money. Their mother wouldn’t speak about it. The children were never seen again.
What happened to Sunni and Wihini? Nobody knows. In that area of Mumbai, children often disappeared. They are kidnapped or sold into prostitution, forced labor, adoption, or even child sacrifice. The workers at the Asha Seep center had seen this before. But this was once too often.
Wihini and Sunni’s story proved to be a catalyst. The story was picked up and passed on and as evidence gathered we realized this is happening on a huge scale, around the world—and even on our own doorsteps. Not 200 years ago. Not even fifty years ago. It was—and is—happening today. And so STOP THE TRAFFIK was born.
Human Tafficking—A Definition
Human trafficking is the dislocation of someone by deception or coercion for exploitation, through forced prostitution, forced labor, or other forms of slavery.
-800,000 people are trafficked across borders each year (US State Department)
-It is estimated that two children per minute are trafficked for sexual exploitation. This amounts to an estimated 1.2 million children trafficked every year (UNICEF)
-In 2004, between 14,500 and 17,500 people were trafficked into the United States (US State Department)
-Human trafficking generates between 10 and 12 billion dollars a year (UNICEF)
-Total profit from human trafficking is second only to the trafficking of drugs (The European Police Office; Eurpol)
The numbers tell you the huge scale of this problem. But behind each number is a sea of faces. Behind the statistics are mothers and father, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, torn apart by trafficking; these are innocent lives ruined by abuse. These are human rights violations on a grotesque scale. And the problem is getting worse.
Monday, April 27, 2009
I just love Toni from A Circle of Books. She is truly one of those big hearted and kind book bloggers. And Toni is now giving away my obsession....Testimony by Anita Shreve! This is a giveaway that will run until May 7
Bella is Reading is hosting a giveaway for Jantsens' Gift: A True Story of Grief, Rescue, and Grace. This truly seems to be a remarkable story. Check out this giveaway for some book details, and I think you will agree that this is a must have. :) Giveaway ends April 30. Be sure to head on over to Bella's for the announcement of the winners. :)
Drey has some great giveaways going, and you really should take a moment to check out Drey's Library for a shot at her Earth Day Giveaway. We are talking SIX books! Nice haul for five lucky readers! Here is what you can win: Harvest for Hope, The Rural Life, Is it Just Me or is Everything Shit, Starbucked, Garbage Land, and The Gift of Nothing. Giveaway ends April 30.
Carrie K is having a blog warming giveaway of some great books! Go check out her new blog locale at Books and Movies Six books and six winners! Here is what you have a chance at: The Mermaid Chair, Sea Changes, Love Letters, The Night Country, The Terminal Spy and Land of Marvels. Giveaway ends: May 1st!
Dar at Peeking Between the Pages has a couple of really great giveaways here is just a taste of what you can win. I would head on over and see all the goodies she has to offer. I in particular am beyond interested in a copy of Scattered Leaves by Richard E. Roach. This giveaway is up on May 8. :)
Vanessa at Today's Adventure is giving away a copy of Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer. I would love to get my hands on this book. This is in celebration of Vanessa's 25th review. Pretty awesome. Even if you don't want to enter, how about stopping by with a congrats?
Amy at Chic Book Chick has an awesome giveaway for Billie Letts' Made in the USA. There is always a lot of fun going on at Chic Book Chick. Check it out and take a shot at one of the five copies! This giveaway ends May 8.
Yankee Romance Reviewers is also hosting a giveaway for Billie Letts' Made in the USA. So if you want to take a second chance get on over and throw your name in the hat! Winners will be announced on May 10! :)
Jenn's Bookshelf is part of the blog tour for Follow Me by Joanna Scott, and she is giving away one copy! The winner will be announced on May 8th!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Multnomah Books (April 14, 2009)
Amy Wallace is the author of Ransomed Dreams and Healing Promises, a homeschool mom, and self-confessed chocoholic. She is a graduate of the Gwinnett County Citizens Police Academy and a contributing author of several books including God Answers Moms’ Prayers and Chicken Soup for the Soul Healthy Living Series: Diabetes. She lives with her husband and three children in Georgia.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (April 14, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Hanna Kessler wrapped trembling arms around her waist and stared through the glass door into her parents’ backyard. A place she’d avoided her whole stay. Sunlight danced in the still water of her mother’s koi pond and highlighted all the landscaping changes Dad had made since Mom’s death.
Hanna closed her eyes against warring memories of past and present. As a child, she’d loved feeding the beautiful orange fish and hearing Mom laugh as the koi swarmed to the food. Now the little pond area was the only bit of her mother remaining. Maybe that was why she’d glanced outside and then stood transfixed. She needed her mom now more than ever.
Swallowing hard, she opened her eyes and focused on Mom’s teakwood dolphin statue and the white rocks around the water, glinting in the late afternoon sun. She reached out to touch the warm glass but couldn’t force herself to open the door. Goose bumps trailed her arms and she shivered.
She couldn’t go outside.
But she had to do something. Had to get away. So she stumbled into the rustic living room, her favorite place in the house. The surrounding family snapshots reminded her of simpler times. Boating on Kentucky Lake. Thunder over Louisville. Playing at Iroquois Park. Times when Mom and Dad and her brother, Steven, had wrapped her in their protection and love.
The front door rattled, then creaked open. “Anyone home?” A man’s deep voice carried through the safe place she’d escaped to months ago. It wasn’t safe anymore.
But her frozen feet refused to move. Where could she hide? Footsteps thundered through the front hall, drawing closer. She had to get out.
Choking down the lump of panic in her throat, she ran back to the sliding glass doors and forced her feet to move outside, onto the concrete patio. She could get to her car from there. The keys! Turning back to the house, she focused on the tall form stepping out of the house and walking toward her.
“Hanna-girl, what’s gotten into you?”
Her brain snapped to attention. The man in front of her was no threat.
“Daddy!” She ran into his outstretched arms.
Andrew Kessler kissed the top of her head and chuckled. “You looked like you’d seen a ghost. Didn’t you get the message I left this morning?”
Heartbeat still pounding out of her rib cage, she inhaled a few deep breaths before answering. She hadn’t checked messages today. And no way could she admit she’d listened to most of the messages her family had left, never intending to return the calls. “I…I must have missed it. Sorry, Daddy.”
Try as she might to hide it, calling her father Daddy only happened when she was terrified. Or hiding. And she’d done a lot of hiding.
Dad stepped back and tilted his head, still holding her in his arms. “Well, I’m in Louisville for the weekend and had to see my girl. I miss you. So does everyone back in Alexandria.”
Even Michael? She wouldn’t ask. She had no right. Not after ignoring all the calls and letters he’d sent. The ones declaring his love even though she’d run away from everyone after her brother’s wedding. She couldn’t meet Dad’s eyes.
“Hanna, look at me.” He tilted her chin up. She fought to not pull away. “Steven asks about you every day. I’m surprised your brother and Clint and the rest of their FBI friends haven’t hightailed it up here to drag you home.”
“They wouldn’t.” Especially not Michael. Not after almost two months of her frosty silence.
Dad laughed again. He had no idea the pain his questions, his presence here, caused. “Steven’s planned it. So has Michael. But they’re waiting for you to come back, on your terms.” As if that would happen. “Susannah’s birthday party is a week from Saturday. Clint and the rest of us are praying you’ll come. Take pictures. Let us show you how much we love having you in Alexandria.”
A week from Saturday. The twenty-fifth of August. She wouldn’t be there. Couldn’t face Clint Rollins. Not after her negligence had nearly cost Clint’s son his life.
Tears slipped past her clenched eyes.
“Oh, honey.” Dad gathered her back into his arms. “No one blames you, Hanna. No one. You need to let the past go. Everyone is safe now. All the Rollins clan. Even Conor.”
So Sara’s baby was still alive. Just like Steven’s and Clint’s messages had said. Relief rushed through her, causing her knees to wobble. But other guilt arrows pierced her heart. All the lies she’d told Steven and Michael. Dad too. Clint’s son wasn’t the only reason she’d fled Alexandria.
“You’ll be there for Susannah’s party, right?” His hopeful blue eyes begged.
She pulled out of his arms and walked back into the house. Dad followed. “I…I need a Kleenex.” Searching through the oak cabinets in the kitchen didn’t produce any tissues. So she grabbed a paper towel from the counter. “What brings you in town? During our phone calls last week, you never mentioned coming home.”
“If I had, would you have been here?”
Ouch. “Yes, Daddy.” Another lie. “So are you here to check on the Mall St. Matthews coffee shop? I’ve been working there every day, just like you arranged. It’s going well.” And she was babbling.
“I’m here to meet with some old friends on Friday and talk about upcoming business opportunities.”
Old friends. The memories rushing in unbidden surfaced more tears. And more cracks in the wall of secrecy. She needed to get out of the house, out of the neighborhood. Now. Maybe then she could exhibit some self-control.
“Why don’t we grab a late lunch at the Cheesecake Factory? After your long drive you’re bound to be hungry, right?” She forced a smile.
“Okay, Hanna-girl.” He wiped away one of her stray tears. “On one condition.”
Please don’t ask about the party, Daddy. Please.
He lifted his bushy graying eyebrows. “Promise you’ll come back to us and take pictures at Susannah’s birthday party next week.”
The very thing she couldn’t do. How would she get out of this without telling more lies or spilling everything? She had to avoid that. Maybe one last fib would get her though the weekend with Dad.
Then she could find somewhere else to run.
Excerpted from Enduring Justice by Amy Wallace. Copyright© 2009 by Amy Nicole Wallace. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
http://www.amywallace.com/ej_chapter.html First Two Chapters of Enduring Justice
http://www.amywallace.com/Newsletter.html Dark Chocolate Suspense Newsletter
This wasn't one of my reviews, but Amy Wallace really is an incredible author, and I am sure you will love it. :)
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I'm sorry....this was just too cute. Anyway,
Thank you to everyone who entered my blog giveaway for Do-Over by Robin Hemley. Thank you very much to Anna from Hachette Book Group for the opportunity. I hope that the winners really enjoy this book!
Hmmm Do Over,,, I would love to do over the paint job in my bedroom, what was I thinking, No I have made some choices that were not the greatest, but I stand behind them with pride. Even the bedroom paint color..Thanks for the giveaway, I love books and love to read.Have a Wonderful day!
April 2, 2009 4:36 PM
I'd like "do over" my time I lived in Hawaii by staying longer!Thanks!Darbydarbyscloset at yahoo dot com
March 26, 2009 5:23 PM
If I could do something all over again,it would be to go back to highschool and be more serious about it. (I graduated with average marks--but took school for granted.)email@example.com
March 26, 2009 12:14 AM
actually nothing because each royal foul up (and there where plenty) was a learning experience thanks for the giveaway minsthins(at)optonline(dot)net
March 27, 2009 6:28 PM
Lady Roxi said...
Love to have this. I wish i could do over my schooling and actually finish.ThanksThanks,darkfyre1(at)gmail(dot)com
March 28, 2009 9:08 AM
Special Follower Prize of a $10 Starbucks gift card goes to:
Sue W. said...
I'm also a follower and have invited some friends to join Enroute To Life and not only win books but learn more about what others enjoy.
April 7, 2009 12:26 PM
Thank you to everyone who participated in this giveaway. I hope you enjoy the book, and I hope to see you all again.
Emails will be going out now and hopefully the winners will reply quickly. They all have three days to reply with their addresses or I will pick new winners for those who did not.
Cheers to all us thieves!
Sunday Stealing: The Mud Meme
1. What are your current obsessions?
I believe I mentioned a meme or two back that I was entirely obsessed with the collection of comic books. This was passed onto me by having to attend more comicons and conventions than any women should have to. Well...unless that woman is being paid for dressing up as Lara Croft or Vampira. I have yet to pick up a new obsession. Oh sure, I toyed with myspace for a while, but that got old. I mean once that whole mafia thing kicked off, I knew myspace was on borrowed time as far as I was concerned. I toyed with facebook, and I still have a page, but really, everyone knows that I am not too cool with it. It is kind of like when I worked at Hooters. In one week I ran into every ex boyfriend I had ever had, and I knew it was NOT the place for me. Well...facebook is kind of like that. Plus...I hate the stupid apps. I think I will go back to my old love...HORROR movies! Ahhhh yes...that is the stuff. Where was I?
2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
This is simply not an interesting answer, but you asked. Sorry for this but the item from my wardrobe that I wear most often is a ridiculously old pair of grandpa pj bottoms that I got at a thrift store when I was in college. They are a light weight cotton and they have one of those drawsting pulls. They are simpley beyond comfortable, and go with everything. My son hates them, but my husband loves them. I'll wear them until the are see through.
3. What's for dinner?
Well, last night we went out for pizza. One of my husband's friends just opened this place and he was telling my husband how he always hated the sauce on the pizzas around here so he decided to go for it. You know...everyone thinks they make a good sauce but usually they don't. Damn...this guy was right. His sauce was amazing! I had already thawed out some chicken breasts so I'll do something with those. Any culinary hints for me? I am getting tired of the usual baked chicken, breaded chicken, and chicken enchiladas.
4. Last thing you bought?
I just bought a DVD two pack of Dawn of the Dead and Land of the Dead. I had already seen Dawn of the Dead (both the original and the remake- this DVD was the remake), but my son insisted we would love Land of the Dead. It really wasn't half bad. It was kind of nice seeing the zombies kick some Dennis Hopper butt.
5. What are you listening to?
The drone of the TV as it plays an episode of 48 Hours from God knows when. I love this kind of stuff. I really do. I just have more important things to do than to pay attention to it right now.
6. If you were a god/goddess who would you be?
I am sorry. I am so ignorant when it comes to gods and godesses. I guess I'll have to stick with what I learned from Xena: Warrior Princess and go for Ares. Why? Because he is the only god I remember. Sorry. :)
7. Favorite holiday spots?
Anywhere with a big old lapful of presents!
8. Reading right now?
I just finished One Deadly Sin by Annie Solomon and am working my way through lasts month's pile of magazines. My husband is a tidy kind of guy and I think my magazines are beginning to freak him out.
9. 4 words to describe yourself.
Snarky, Cunning, Loyal, Legendary (sorry got that from Barney but it so fits)
10. Guilty pleasure?
Well, if I were still living in Rhode Island it would be Dunkin Donuts iced coffee. There is one in Arizona, but it is like an hour and a half, and if I am going to drive an hour and a half, you can bet it isn't going to be for a dang iced coffee. :) For now my guilty pleasure is simply watching the crappinest television shows imagineable like Rock of Love. :) I simply cannot resist Trainwreck TV. :)
11. Who or what makes you laugh until you’re weak?
My husband purely cracks me up. It is quite obvious to most anyone that we had to be made for eachother because we have the exact same sense of humor.
Only someone who is totally in sync with you can make the same goofball face as you without even realizing it. :)
12. Planning to travel to next?
Oh we are off to the wilds of Pennsylvania! Well before that actually we are taking my dad and stepmom to Sedona. So really that is kind of traveling just traveling to a place wicked close to us, but still cool. Apparently there are orbs or something like that there. Oh wait...not orbs...vortexes(how do you pluralize vortex?).
13. Best thing you ate or drank lately?
That would be the pizza I had for dinner last night. It was full of veggies with the best sauce ever and some pepperoni on top so I wouldn't look like a whimp.
14. When did you last get tipsy?
It has been a long time. I don't really get tipsy. I never did really. Well, I get tipsy when I cook with wine. You know the drill...a little for the meal, a little for me, a little more for me = tipsy. Back in college and beyond I got drunk. Too drunk. The kind of drunk that makes you swear off of certain alcoholic combinations. I am beyond that now. I realize that waking up in the morning and feeling like someone pumped your head to twice it size was just not worth it.
15. Care to share some wisdom?
Do you really think I have any wisdom I can share with you at this hour? I really can't. I am exhausted. OHHHHHH here it is. If you love someone, freaking show it. Don't wait for them to hold your hand if you want your hand held. If you want someone to do something nice for you, how about doing something nice for them? Quit waiting to act only when it is in reciprocation. Okay...I am going to stop...I don't want to get in a rant here.
16. Nicest thing anyone’s ever said to you?
You're beautiful. My husband told me that this morning. Mind you, my hair was what bed head IS all about. How cool is that?
Join in here
Format: MASS MARKET
Publish Date: 5/1/2009
Size: 4-3/16" x 6-3/4"
The Book (from publisher's website): COMING HOME IS MURDER...
Revenge. Edie Swann has hungered for it since she fled her hometown as a little girl. Now she's returned, ready for payback. Armed with a list of names, she leaves each one a chilling sign that they have blood on their hands. Her father's blood. What happens next turns her own blood cold: one by one, the men she's targeted start dying.
Sheriff Holt Drennen knows Edie is hiding something. She has a haunted look in her eyes and a defiant spirit, yet he can't believe she's a murderer. As the body count rises and all evidence points to Edie, Holt is torn between the town he's sworn to protect and the woman he's come to desire. But nothing is what it seems. Long buried secrets begin to surface, and a killer won't be satisfied until the sins of the past are paid in full--this time with Edie's blood.
About Annie from publisher's website:
A native New Yorker, RITA-winning author Annie Solomon has been dreaming up stories since she was ten. After a twelve-year career in advertising, where she rose to Vice President and Head Writer at a mid-size agency, she abandoned the air conditioners, furnaces and heat pumps of her professional life for her first love—romance. An avid knitter, she now lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter.
My Review: Edie is new in town. She is a dark haired mysterious beauty that arrives in town on a Harley and on a mission. Of course Edie's mission is her own, and she has no intention of getting too attached to this town. This is the town that cost her everything, and certainly she wants revenge on her own terms. However, Edie is not going to get in and out that easily. She meets the handsome sheriff whom she is drawn to despite her own intentions. But someone else seems to have their own agenda with regards to revenge and it is looking that Edie just might be set up to take the fall.
This novel holds a little suspense, a little romance, a pinch or two of sex and a lot of guessing. I put myself in Edie's shoes. Would I be able to go back to the place of so much pain in order to find justice and redemption for a wrong? I believe if every good thing in life was pulled away from me I just might, but again, if you hold on to pain you can not let go for love. It was nice to see the romance blossom with Edie and Holt. It was nice seeing them let go. Edie was very different from anyone Holt had known in the past, and Holt simply was the first man it seems to get into Edie's heart. It was nice to see this thread in the story. Of course, the greatest thing for me is just finding a mystery that I couldn't solve too quickly. That was a gift and I am so glad that Annie Solomon chose to share that gift with us.
If you like suspense with a little bit of romance mixed in, definitely pick this one up.
Would you like to take a peek?
Be sure to check out Annie Solomon's website here for more information on Annie, her other works, and her blog link! Annie Solomon
And now onto the giveaway! I just love a giveaway! This is a short giveaway that will coincide with the blog tour. It begins today, April 26 and will end at 11:59pm on May 8 MST.
----Open to US and Canada
----No PO Boxes
----Entries need to have email addresses in comments or link in their blog so I can contact you if you win.
----Giveaway is from April 26 to May 8 at 11:59pm MST
----Winners will be emailed and announced on the blog and will have three days to respond with their mailing addresses or a new winner will be chosen.
How to Win:
Main Entry - There are bonus entries but this one must be done first. Answer this question: What is your favorite suspense or mystery novel?
Extra Entries, please leave a comment for each-
+1 For blogging about this giveaway and coming back with the link.
+1 For tweeting this giveaway and coming back with the link.
+1 For following the blog or currently being a blog follower comment whichever.
+1 For being a Twitter Follower - Leave a comment
+2 Send someone here for the giveaway. If they comment that you sent them (they need to do the first entry) you both get two more entries.
That is it. Pretty easy! Now be sure to check out the other blogs in the tour.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Format: TRADE PAPERBACK
Publish Date: 5/5/2009
Size: 5-1/2" x 8-1/4"
Thank you to Valerie from Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to join in on this May giveaway. Yes...I am starting now, but this is a long runner my dearies. What we have on deck is Testimony by Anita Shreve. Got to love the plot of this one! Check it out!
From the Publisher's Website:
At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment.
Writing with a pace and intensity surpassing even her own greatest work, Anita Shreve delivers in TESTIMONY a gripping emotional drama with the impact of a thriller. No one more compellingly explores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming innocents, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions.
What do you think so far? Looks good doesn't it? If you need a little more check this out!
Don't you just love open book? I love a little extra sneak peek, but honestly, I didn't need one to know I wanted to review and host a giveaway for this book! And let's face it, Anita Shreve pretty much rocks hard! :)
Here is some Author information again from the publisher's website:
Anita Shreve is the critically acclaimed author of fourteen novels, including Body Surfing, The Pilot's Wife, which was a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and The Weight of Water, which was a finalist for England's Orange Prize. She lives in Massachusetts.
So what do you think? Want to win?
-----Open to US and Canada, no PO Boxes.
-----Include your email address in your comment. If your email address is in your blogger profile that will work too.
-----Giveaway runs from April 25 to Saturday, May 23 at 11:59pm MST.
-----Winners will be emailed and posted on this blog and will have three days to respond with their addresses or new winners will be drawn.
-----The first entry needs to be done before additional entries
First entry: This is a book with deep subject matter. How about a light comment? Please tell me something you miss about being in high school. That is it. Don't forget a way for me to contact you if you win.
Additional Entries (first one before these):
+1 Blog about this giveaway and post the link.
+1 Tweet this giveaway and post the link.
+1 Become a blog follower and post that you are. If you are already a blog follower, please post that too.
+1 Become a Twitter follower and again if you are, post it too.
+2 No blog? Anyone who sends someone here and that person comments with their first entry and tells who sent them, two entries for both.
Thank you to everyone who enters. I really appreciate it and you! :) Have a great day!
Friday, April 24, 2009
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (February 15, 2009)
SUSY FLORY grew up on the back of a quarter horse in an outdoorsy family in Northern California and she's not afraid to dive into the trenches to experience firsthand whatever she's writing about. If that means smuggling medical supplies into Cuba on a humanitarian trip or sitting down to coffee to talk about faith with a practicing witch, she's there with a listening ear and notebook in hand.
Susy's creative nonfiction features a first person journalistic style with a backbone of strong research and a dash of dry wit. She attended Biola University and UCLA, where she received degrees in English and psychology. She has a background in journalism, education, and communications. Her first book, Fear Not Da Vinci, released in 2006.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City (February 15, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Addicted to comfort
“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place in a corner by the fireside
and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive …
One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt, on her 77th birthday
I love my couch. It’s covered in a squishy soft velvety material the color of oatmeal laced with honey and the cushions are fat. Three big loose pillows rest against the back, the material woven into an exotic, vaguely Eastern pattern of impressionistic flowers and trees in tawny gold and lapis blue. My favorite spot in the entire house is the far end of this couch, with two smaller pillows behind my back and my legs stretched out long ways. I do this every day.
For a while we had an uptight couch. Bright Colonial red with little blue and yellow flowers, it reminded me of the calico dresses Melissa Gilbert used to wear on Little House on the Prairie. The fabric was quilted in the shape of puzzle pieces and the back rose straight up, pierced by a row of buttons. A boxy pleated strip of fabric ran along the bottom. It was really uncomfortable and almost impossible to take a nap in. That couch didn’t want you sitting there very long; it was a little Puritanical, wanting you up and around, taking care of business. We sold it at a garage sale for $20. Good riddance.
But the comfy oatmeal couch—it loves you. It calls you to sink down into comfort, and to stay awhile. A long while.
From the couch I can see the kitchen where my kids are grating cheese for quesadillas or searching the fridge for leftover pizza. I can look out the back window, at the drooping branches of the monstrous eucalyptus tree overhanging the back yard. Or, I can stare at the ceiling fan, slowly circling overhead. But, really, I hardly ever look at anything but words. Books, newspapers, catalogs, magazines, letters from friends—those are the things I look at when I’m stretched out on the couch.
Sundays are my absolutely favorite. After church, we eat lunch at the taqueria, then head home. The newspapers await; I don’t want to waste time changing my clothes so I head straight for the couch. News comes first, then business, travel, entertainment, and the Sunday magazine. Last are the sale papers: Target, Best Buy, Macy’s.
By this time I’m sleepy, melting a bit around the edges. My head grows heavy and I turn, curl up, and snuggle into the cushions. I fall asleep, papers crinkly around me.
A while ago my teenage son, just to aggravate me, staked a claim on the oatmeal couch. He’d race home after church in his little pick-up truck and head in the door, kicking off his shoes and diving into my favorite comfy spot in one gangly flop. He made it his goal to be asleep, limbs a sprawl, before I even made it inside the house. A few times I tried to extricate him but it was useless, like trying to wrestle a wire hanger out of a tangled pile.
I decided to wait him out and so after he slept on the couch a few Sundays, he gave it up. He had better things to do, usually involving his computer.
Things returned to normal, the oatmeal couch remembered the shape of my behind, and I took to snuggling into the tawny-lapis pillows once again.
It was safe, my velvety couch cave.
Just like my life.
In one of my favorite books, A Girl Named Zippy, Haven Kimmel writes about her mother, always on the couch with a cardboard box of books by her side. There she was, forever reading a book and waving at her children as they went back and forth, in and out of the house, busily doing whatever kids in a small Indiana town did. She stayed there, curled up on the couch, peacefully reading her books as her husband ran around who-knows-where, maybe coon hunting, gambling away his paycheck, or sleeping with the divorced woman across town. She was comfortable there. Zippy unexpectedly became a bestseller and Kimmel traveled around giving talks and signing books. The one question everyone asked her was, “Did your mother ever get up off the couch?”
I don’t live in Indiana; I live in a suburb of San Francisco. My kids don’t run in and out of the house; they pretty much stay put. My husband is a hard working, non-gambling, faithful guy who pays the bills. And my life is pretty good. But I have lived most of it lodged safely in the corner of my couch.
My secure couch cocoon was really a picture of what I had let my life become. Lethargic, sleepy, with a love for security and for comfort, I lived for self. I avoided suffering at all costs. I didn’t want to ever do anything uncomfortable. I think I was addicted to comfort.
My journey out of my couch-life started years ago when I was a college student on vacation, idly looking around a gift shop. Flicking through a box full of enameled metal signs, I came across one that read “We Can Do It!” Underneath was a portrait of a woman, looking sort of like Lucille Ball in her cleaning garb, hair up in a red bandanna. Glossy lips, a little pouty, with arched eyebrows and thick eyelashes. She wore a blue collared shirt, sleeve rolled up over a flexed bicep, toned and powerful. Her eyes were wide open, focused, determined. Who was she? I hadn’t a clue, but I bought the sign and installed it in a place of honor by my desk.
Later, when I was married, the mother of two small children and too busy changing diapers to sit much on the couch yet, I learned she was called Rosie the Riveter. She, and six million other women who toiled in factories while their men were off fighting in World War II, changed the world. Even now, as I look at the old enamel sign next to my desk, I’m haunted by the determination in the line of her jaw and the resolve in the curl of her fist. I wanted to be like her.
But the couch called. I forgot the sign; it migrated to the back of my bookcase and I took a part time job teaching English at a private high school. My kids were in school, my husband was fighting up the corporate ladder, and with the days sometimes a blur of homework, basketball practice, and ballet class, I hoarded my couch time.
Funny, though. It wasn’t satisfying. I just couldn’t ever seem to get enough.
And then, one day, stretched out reading the Sunday paper, I saw Rosie again. It was a full-page department store ad. Across the top ran a banner: “Help end hunger.” Something had changed. Rosie looked a little more glamorous than I remembered. The “can” in the “We CAN Do It!” was underlined and capitalized to emphasize the can of food in her fist. I unfolded the page and examined it; it was an advertisement for National Hunger Awareness day. If you made a $5 donation to the department store, they would in return give you a 15% coupon for regular, sale and clearance-priced merchandise. It’s our thanks to you for helping to relieve hunger in our communities.
I pondered the page; something didn’t quite make sense. Somehow, by partnering with Rosie to spend money at the department store, you would help to relieve hunger. Rosie and her factory worker sisters had changed the world by serving for low pay and little recognition on factory lines during a war. They had sacrificed personal comfort and convenience for a cause greater than themselves, a cause they believed in and sweated and grew calluses for. Now the department store was asking me to be like Rosie, tie up my hair, bare my biceps and leave my couch, so I could … shop? You’ve got to be kidding.
But my irritation that day over the hijacking of the Rosie the Riveter image piqued my curiosity. Who was Rosie? Was she a real person? Was she still alive? What would she think about the ways her image, once meant to encourage and inspire the Nazi-fighting women of World War II, had been used for merchandising? I was intrigued by her determination and I decided to roll up my sleeves and get to the bottom of her story. So I did. And after Rosie I found eight other women, amazing women, who changed the world. I found women who, with grit and guts, made their lives add up to something much more than just a satisfying Sunday nap. And somehow, in the finding, the oatmeal couch lost its allure.
I wanted to feel alive, to experience something more deep and dangerous than my middle class life. I wanted more than a Ford Expedition SUV with leather seats or a 401K groaning with employer contributions. I craved something beyond Ralph Lauren Suede paint or a giant glossy red Kitchen Aid mixer. I was ready to wake up from a very long nap and do something meaningful.
So this is the story of how, slowly, I began to get up off the couch of my boring, safe, sheltered, vanilla existence to something more real, sharper, in focus. Rosie led the way. Along came Eleanor, and Jane. Then Harriet, Elizabeth, and more. These women became mentors calling me to a different kind of life. Passionate for change, each woman sacrificed money, love, comfort, time, and, ultimately, self, to make a difference to thousands, maybe millions of people.
Living like the women who changed the world is not easy, but it’s good. It feels right. It is satisfying.
This is how I got up off the couch and tried, with much fear and trembling, to make a difference in my world. And I’ll never go back.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Hi guys, Every Thursday I do a spot on our radio station, Radio Shine called Kelly's Thrifty Tips. The morning hosts have a blog called First Light where I post those tips each week, and I would love it if you would stop by and check out our blog for today's update. Happy Thursday!
Well, I am really getting accustomed to this water thing. I wouldn't say it is a natural habit like fastening my seatbelt but there have definitely been some things that have helped me along the way.
Setting my cell phone alarm to ring at 9am, 11am and 1pm was a genius move, and I am not just saying that because I thought of it. It really does keep me on track.
Having my nice pretty purple stainless steel water bottle helps too. It keeps the water nice and cold which I completely prefer.
Letting my friends and co-workers know what I am trying to do has been a great help too, because they ask me how it is going. It is nice to have people hold you accountable.
And so far here are my observations:
Do I feel more energetic? Not yet.
Has it helped my appetite? I am not sure yet, but I think I am so concerned with drinking water that I don't think about snacking as much. This is good and bad because I do believe you need to snack a few times a day in order to keep your metabolism up. My main meals have not really changed yet.
The one obvious change I have noted....
Wait For It....
No doubt I am building frequent flier miles in the powder room. ;) I think that may be one of the reasons I have avoided drinking water too much. It runs right through you! I thought coffee was bad!
Anyway...that is all I can report for now. I'm hoping for some lovely glowing skin soon! ;)
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Grand Central Publishing (March 23, 2009)
Xavier Knight is the Christian fiction pen name for C. Kelly Robinson. He is a native of Dayton, Ohio and magna cum laude graduate of Howard University and Washington University in St. Louis. Robinson is a marketing communications manager by day and has a long record of volunteer experience across organizations including United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mentor St. Louis, and Student Venture Ministries. Author of five previous novels including the best-selling No More Mr. Nice Guy and the critically acclaimed Between Brothers (Random House), he lives outside Dayton with his wife and daughter. He is hard at work on his next novel and on a nonfiction project.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (March 23, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
For the first time she could remember in years, Cassandra Gillette felt like a woman fulfilled. Freshly showered, she sat before the laptop PC in her spacious dressing room, checking email. She had another hour at least before her newly-built luxury home would be overrun by her family; her husband Marcus had gone to pick up their twelve-year-old twins, Heather and Hillary, from a friend’s birthday party out in Middletown. In addition, her seventeen-year-old son, Marcus Jr., was still seven hours away from his midnight curfew.
“There is so much to be thankful for,” Cassie whispered to God, letting her words ring through the quiet of her master suite. This was not the average lazy Saturday afternoon; for the first time in nearly four months, Cassie had made love to her husband.
Their separation had gotten off to a fiery start, but as tempers cooled and nights passed, God had brought Cassie and Marcus back together. Marcus had quickly tired of Veronica, the twenty-something news anchor who had welcomed him into her condo, and Cassie’s eyes had been opened. When her best girlfriend Julia confronted her, she had finally realized how her actions in recent years had starved Marcus of the respect and affirmation that even the strongest man needed.
So it was that after several late-night telephone calls and a Starbucks “date” hidden from their children, Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Gillette had decided to get up off the mat and keep the promises they made before God seventeen years earlier, a few months after M.J.’s arrival. They had agreed to surprise the children with news of their reconciliation tonight, but with the house empty this afternoon, the couple had started a private celebration. The house was new enough that aside from the master bedroom, their frisky activity had “christened” the kitchen’s marble-topped island, the leather couch in the finished basement, and the washing machine in the laundry room.
As she dashed off an email to the staff at her real estate agency, sharing news of the latest deal she had closed – a four hundred twenty thousand dollar sale, their thirtieth property sold for the quarter – Cassie nearly shuddered with delight as she recalled Marcus’ smooth touch. Although she had lost thirty pounds over the past year, she was still nearly twenty pounds heavier than she’d been on their wedding day, and she had been pregnant then. Nevertheless, Cassie’s Marcus knew and loved her body, in exactly the way that frank scriptures like those in Song of Solomon encouraged. Like most everything else in marriage, the Gillettes’ sexual relationship had experienced ups and downs, but Cassie licked her lips unintentionally as she mentally applauded her man: when he’s good, he’s GOOD.
An instant message popped up on her screen: Julia, her best friend. “I heard a rumor,” she IM’d.
Cassie smiled as she typed back, “No idea what you mean.”
Julia’s IM response popped up. “They say a handsome, bulky brother tipped into your crib this afternoon.”
Cassie smiled as she typed, “Girl, I am too old to be kissin’ and tellin’.”
“And I’m too old to be listening to such filth,” Julia typed. As a PhD and superintendent of schools at their shared alma mater, Christian Light Schools, Julia let her words communicate their humor; Cassie’s friend was above the use of those corny emoticons. Julia sent another missive: “You are coming to my Board of Advisors meeting Monday, right? I need help saving this school system, child.”
Cassie stuck her tongue out playfully as she entered her response. “Still not sure how I fit in with this crew. You said you’re pulling together the ‘best and brightest’ Christian Light alumni? Don’t see how I count, given that the school expelled me when they realized why my belly was swollen.”
“Stop it,” came Julia’s response. “Besides, you have what matters most to a struggling school system: Deep pockets!”
Cassie shook her head, her laughter easing any guilt she might have felt about throwing the painful memory of her expulsion – accompanied by the school principal’s labeling her a “girl of loose morals” – in her friend’s face. Julia alone had led a student protest in Cassie’s defense at the time, marching on the school’s front lawn and even calling local media in a vain attempt to embarrass the school into reversing its decision.
Cassie was typing a light-hearted response when her front doorbell rang, the chime filling the house. Changing up, she shot her friend a quick, “Doorbell – call you later,” before taking a second to tuck her blouse into her jeans. Padding downstairs to the foyer, she chuckled to herself. She would have to help Julia save the world later.
When she peered into her front door’s peephole, Cassie’s heart caught for a second at the sight of a tall, blonde-haired gentleman flashing a police badge.
M.J.’s fine, said the voice in Cassie’s head as the badge stirred anxiety over her teen son’s safety. She wasn’t sure whether it was the Lord or simply her own positive coaching. For years now Cassie had combined her faith in God with affirmative self-talk meant to power her through life’s stresses and adversities. In her youth, she had crumpled one time too many in the face of indifference, prejudice, sexism and just plain evil; by the time she and Marcus walked the aisle of Tabernacle Baptist Church, where each had first truly dedicated their respective lives to Christ, Cassie had vowed to never be caught unaware again. That same spirit of resolve propped her up as she confidently unlocked and swung back her wide oak door.
As strong as she felt, Cassie’s knees still flexed involuntarily when she saw M.J. standing beside the plainclothes policeman. At six foot one, her son was every inch as tall as the policeman and stood with his arms crossed, a sneer teasing the corners of his mouth. Though relieved to see he was fine, Cassie sensed an unusually defiant spirit in her boy, so she locked her gaze onto the officer instead. If her man-child had done something worthy of punishment, she wouldn’t give this stranger the pleasure of witnessing the beat-down. She unlocked her screen door and, opening it, let the officer make the first move.
“Mrs. Gillette?” The man held out his right hand and respectfully shook Cassie’s as he spoke in a deep, hoarse voice. “I’m Detective Whitlock with the Dayton PD. I’m really sorry to bother you, but I was hoping we could help each other this evening, ma’am.”
Cassie opened her screen door all the way, one hand raised against the fading sunlight in her eyes. “Please, come in,” she said, focused on editing the airy lilt out of her tone. She didn’t mind letting her naturally fluttery voice out when among family and friends, but now was no time for it. “Why don’t we have a seat in the living room.”
“Again, I apologize for showing up unannounced. A neighborhood this nice, one of those draws a lot of eyebrows probably,” Whitlock said, nodding toward the sleek police car parked out front. “Marcus Jr. and I had an unfortunate confrontation this afternoon. The more I talk to him, I’m convinced we can handle this without a trip downtown.”
Cassie nodded respectfully. Who can argue with that? She thought as she motioned toward the expansive living room. “May I take your suit jacket?”
“Oh, no thank you,” Whitlock replied. He slowed his gait and allowed M.J. to first follow Cassie into the room. The detective stood just inside the doorway, peering at Cassie’s expensive sculptures and paintings as M.J. reluctantly took a seat beside his mother. Once they were settled, Whitlock strode to the middle of the living room, his hands in the pockets of his dress slacks. “Marcus, why don’t you tell your mother how we crossed paths?”
M.J. stared straight ahead, his line of sight veering nowhere near Cassie and shooting over the top of Whitlock’s head of wavy blond hair. “I was minding my business, Mom. Officer Whitlock here–”
“Detective Whitlock, son,” the policeman replied, a testy edge betraying the professional, placid smile on his tanned, leathery face. Cassie found herself admitting he was a relatively handsome man, one who even reminded her of the male cousins on the white side of her family. The policeman was probably her own age, she figured, somewhere between thirty-five and forty.
Grimacing, M.J. continued. “The good detective here pulled me over on 75. Said he clocked me at seventy-eight in a fifty-five.”
“Oh I see,” Cassie said, a wave of relief cleansing her tensed insides. She placed a hand on her son’s shoulder but kept her eyes on the detective. “If that’s all that’s involved, my son should certainly pay whatever fine is required by the law. You’re not doing him any favors giving him a simple talking-to.” She nearly chastised herself for fearing the worst. This was probably just a case of her super-jock son–a varsity star in Chaminade-Julienne football, basketball and track–getting special treatment for his local celebrity, a celebrity nearly as big as the fame that had first attracted her to Marcus Sr. back in the day.
Holding Cassie’s smile with calm blue eyes, Whitlock reached into his jacket pocket and retrieved a manila envelope. “Asked and answered. The state trooper wrote this ticket up for your son during the traffic stop.” He walked over to the loveseat and slowly extended the envelope to M.J. “I agree that Marcus needs to pay his speeding ticket, Mrs. Gillette. If that’s all that was involved, I would have never been called to the scene.”
Everything is fine. My son has done nothing illegal. Cassie fingered the gold locket around her neck but prayed she was otherwise masking the dread pulsing back into her. “Then get to the point please, Detective.”
Whitlock paced quickly to the corner of the adjacent couch. When he plopped down, he was less than a foot away from Cassie. “You see,” he said, his elbows on his knees and his faintly yellowed teeth glinting as he seemed to smile despite himself, “I was called in because Marcus had a convicted criminal riding with him, the sort of character who can make even this fine young man look guilty by association.”
“Please tell me,” Cassie said, pivoting rapidly toward M.J., “that you weren’t riding around with him again.” When M.J. bunched his lips tight and shrugged, Cassie couldn’t stop herself from popping him in the shoulder. “Boy! You promised me! You promised me, M.J.!”
Whitlock had removed his cell phone from his suit jacket. His eyes focused on the phone as he punched its buttons, he asked, “By ‘him,’ are you referring to Dante Wayne?”
“Yes,” Cassie said, her forehead so hot with rage it scared her. She wasn’t sure whether to be more upset at this white stranger lounging on her couch, or her increasingly disobedient son.
Whitlock stared straight into Cassie’s eyes. “And you’re familiar with Mr. Wayne how?”
Cassie sucked her teeth angrily. “He’s my cousin’s oldest son.” Donald, Dante’s father, ran a small taxi service and was the first relative on her father’s side of the family – the Black side – who had reached out to Cassie when they were both struggling teen parents trying to figure life out. Though they didn’t talk often these days, Cassie still counted Donald a personal friend, and her loyalty to him through the years had led her to foster M.J. and Dante’s friendship from the time they were toddlers. That was before she realized that Dante would adopt the morals of his mother’s family, nearly all of whom had died in their twenties or spent significant stretches in prison.
“So M.J. was straight with me, they are cousins.” Whitlock stroked his chin playfully as he observed mother and son. “Marcus insisted that was the only reason he was riding around with Dante in tow. Dante took up for him too, insisted there was no way Marcus was hip to the drugs we found in the car.” He nodded toward M.J. “Why don’t we discuss this one adult to another, ma’am. Marcus, based on your exemplary reputation in the community – as well as your parents’ – I’m willing to assume you had no knowledge of your cousin’s activities. If you’ll just excuse us.”
M.J. looked between his mother and the detective, the first signs of a growing son’s protective emotions on his face as he tapped Cassie’s knee. “You okay with him, Mom?”
“Go down to your room,” Cassie said through clenched tooth, “and shut the basement door after you.” As her son rose, she punctuated her words. “Don’t even think about coming up until your father and I come down for you.”
Monday, April 20, 2009
You know... it has been a while since I posted some of the giveaways I found. So here are a few! Enjoy! And as a side note...I felt so bad when I saw an Activia commercial where a woman said to Jamie Lee Curtis "Activia Lady!" I know this was just a commercial, but dang...Jamie Lee Curtis being known as the Activia Lady SUCKS (yep...so much I had to cap it).
Okay...off to the giveaways!
I was thrilled when I found this giveaway for Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs. Check out Bonnie at Redlady's Reading Room for a chance to win a copy! This giveaway will run until April 24.
Chic Shopper Chick has a great Earth Day giveaway. This one is going to be huge! Get in on it now! You have until April 24. Look at this list: Tide Coldwater (helps you to save money on your energy bill!), A Brita Water Filter Pitcher, a Little Green Machine by Bissel, White Cloud’s “Green” Paper Towels, and a supply of Clorox’s Greenworks Eco-Frienly cleaning supplies!
Gwendolyn is having her first book giveaway on her blog! Please support this blogger and head on over to A Sea of Books and get in on a chance to win Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts! This giveaway is running until May 1o!
Amy at Chick Book Review has one of those blogs that entirely motivates me! Here is an amazing giveaway for a little business motivation. The book is titled You Bring the Peanut Butter, I'll get the Bread by Kirsten Poe Hill and Renee E. Warren. The winner will be chosen on April 26. :)
Testimony by Anita Shreve looks absolultely incredible. Read some details at Bridget's Blog Readaholic and then take your chance with the rest of us for a possible win of one of five copies! SWEET! This giveaway ends May 1st.
While you are at Readaholic, you might also like to get a chance at Made In the U.S.A. by Billie Letts! This is another one of those must reads and everyone is chomping at the bit for it! Take a chance as well. This giveaway also ends on May 1st.
This Book for Free is also giving us blog readers a chance to win Testimony by Anita Shreve. Five winners will be drawn on May 3. I hope I'm one of them!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Monarch Books (November 4, 2008)
Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He graduated from Spring Arbor High School in 1960, and Greenville College (Illinois) in 1964. He received a MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970. He taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School.
Mel married Susan Brock in 1965, and they have two daughters; Amy (Kevin) Kwilinski, of Kennesaw, GA, and Jennifer (Jeremy) Reivitt, of Portage, MI. Mel and Susan have seven grandchildren.
***No author photo available. The church pictured is The Church of St. Beornwald (part of the setting for The Unquiet Bones). Today it is basically unchanged from its medieval appearance. Except for the name: in the 16th century it was renamed and since then has been called The Church of St. Mary the Virgin.***
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Monarch Books (November 4, 2008)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
cesspit at the base of Bampton Castle wall.
Then he found the skull. Uctred is a villein, bound to the land of Lord Gilbert, third Baron Talbot, lord of Bampton Castle, and had slaughtered many pigs. He knew the difference between human and pig skulls.
Lord Gilbert called for me to inspect the bones. All knew whose bones they must be. Only two men had recently gone missing in Bampton. These must be the bones of one of them.
Sir Robert Mallory had been the intended suitor of Lord Gilbert's beautious sister, Lady Joan. Shortly after Easter he and his squire called at the castle, having, it was said, business with Lord Gilbert. What business this was I know not, but suspect a dowry was part of the conversation. Two days later he and his squire rode out the castle gate to the road north toward Burford. The porter saw him go. No one saw him or his squire after. He never arrived at his father’s manor at Northleech. How he arrived, dead, unseen, back within--or nearly within--the walls of Bampton Castle no one could say. Foul play seemed likely.
I was called to the castle because of my profession; surgeon. Had I known when I chose such work that cleaning filth from bones might be part of my duties I might have continued the original calling chosen for me: clerk.
I am Hugh of Singleton, fourth and last son of a minor knight from the county of Lancashire. The manor of Little Singleton is aptly named; it is small. My father held the manor in fief from Robert de Sandford. It was a pleasant place to grow up. Flat as a table, with a wandering,
sluggish tidal stream, the Wyre, pushing through it on its journey from the hills, just visible ten miles to the east, to the sea, an equal distance to the northwest.
As youngest son, the holding would play no part in my future. My oldest brother, Roger, would receive the manor, such as it was. I remember when I was but a tiny lad overhearing him discuss with my father a choice of brides who might bring with them a dowry which would enlarge his lands. In this they were moderately successful. Maud’s dowry doubled my brother’s holdings. After three children Roger doubled the size of his bed, as well. Maud was never a frail girl. Each heir she produced added to her bulk. This seemed not to trouble Roger. Heirs are important.
Our village priest, Father Aymer, taught the manor school. When I was nine years old, the year the great death first appeared, he spoke to my father and my future was decided.
I showed a scholar’s aptitude, so it would be the university for me. At age fourteen I was sent off to Oxford to become a clerk, and, who knows, perhaps eventually a lawyer or a priest. This was poor timing, for in my second year at the university a fellow student became enraged at the watered beer he was served in a High Street tavern and with some cohorts destroyed the place. The proprietor sought assistance, and the melee became a wild brawl known ever after as the St. Scholastica Day Riot. Near a hundred scholars and townsmen died before the sheriff restored the peace. When I dared emerge from my lodgings I fled to Lancashire and did not return until Michealmas term.
I might instead have inherited Little Singleton had the Black Death been any worse.
Roger and one of his sons perished in 1349, but two days apart, in the week before St. Peter’s Day. Then, at the Feast of St. Mary my third brother died within a day of falling ill. Father Aymer said an imbalance of the four humors; air, earth, fire, and water, caused the sickness. Most priests, and indeed the laymen as well, thought this imbalance due to God’s wrath. Certainly men gave Him reason enough to be angry.
Most physicians ascribed the imbalance to the air. Father Aymer recommended burning wet wood to make smoky fires, ringing the church bell at regular intervals, and the wearing of a bag of spices around the neck to perfume the air. I was but a child, however it seemed to me even then that these precautions were not successful. Father Aymer, who did not shirk his duties as did some scoundrel priests, died a week after administering extreme unction to my brother Henry. I watched from the door, a respectful distance from my brother’s bed. I can see in my memory Father Aymer bending over my wheezing, dying brother, his spice bag swinging out from his body as he chanted the phrases of the sacrament.
So my nephew and his mother inherited little Singleton and I made my way to Oxford. I found the course of study mildly interesting. Father Aymer had taught me Latin and some Greek, so it was no struggle to advance my skills in these languages.
I completed the trivium and quadrivium in the allotted six years, but chose not to take holy orders after the award of my bachelor’s degree. I had no desire to remain a bachelor, although I had no particular lady in mind with whom I might terminate my solitary condition.
I desired to continue my studies. Perhaps, I thought, I shall study law, move to
London, and advise kings. The number of kingly advisors who ended their lives in prison or at the block should have dissuaded me of this conceit. But the young are seldom deterred from following foolish ideas.
You see how little I esteemed life as a vicar in some lonely village, or even the life of a rector with livings to support me. This is not because I did not wish to serve God. My desire in that regard, I think, was greater than many who took a vocation; serving the church while they served themselves.
In 1361, while I completed a Master of Arts degree, plague struck again. Oxford, as before, was hard hit. The colleges were much reduced. I lost many friends, but once again God chose to spare me. I have prayed many times since that I might live so as to make Him pleased that He did so.
I lived in a room on St. Michael’s Street, with three other students. One fled the town at the first hint the disease had returned. Two others perished. I could do nothing to help them, but tried to make them comfortable. No; when a man is covered from neck to groin in bursting pustules he cannot be made comfortable. I brought water to them, and put cool cloths on their fevered foreheads, and waited with them for death.
William of Garstang had been a friend since he enrolled in Balliol College five years earlier. We came from villages but ten miles apart -- although his was much larger; it held a weekly market -- but we did not meet until we became students together. An hour before he died William beckoned me to approach his bed. I dared not remain close, but heard his rasping whisper as he willed to me his possessions. Among his meager goods were three books.
God works in mysterious ways. Between terms, in August of 1361, He chose to do three things which would forever alter my life. First, I read one of William’s books: SURGERY, by Henry de Mondeville, and learned of the amazing intricacies of the human body. I read all day, and late into the night, until my supply of candles was gone. When I finished, I read the book again, and bought more candles.
Secondly, I fell in love. I did not know her name, or her home. But one glance told me she was a lady of rank and beyond my station. The heart, however, does not deal in social convention.
I had laid down de Mondeville’s book long enough to seek a meal. I saw her as I left the inn. She rode a gray palfrey with easy grace. A man I assumed to be her husband escorted her. Another woman, also quite handsome, rode with them, but I noticed little about her. A half-dozen grooms rode behind this trio: their tunics of blue and black might have identified the lady’s family, but I paid little attention to them, either.
Had I rank enough to someday receive a bishopric I might choose a mistress and disregard vows of chastity. Many who choose a vocation do. Secular priests in lower orders must be more circumspect, but even many of these keep women. This is not usually held against them, so long as they are loyal to the woman who lives with them and bears their children. But I found the thought of violating a vow as repugnant as a solitary life, wedded only to the church. And the Church is already the bride of Christ and needs no other spouse.
She wore a deep red cotehardie -- the vision on the gray mare. Because it was warm she needed no cloak or mantle. She wore a simple white hood, turned back, so that
chestnut-colored hair visibly framed a flawless face. Beautiful women had smitten me before. It was a regular occurrence. But not like this. Of course, that’s what I said the last time, also.
I followed the trio and their grooms at a discreet distance, hoping they might halt before some house. I was disappointed. The party rode on to Oxpens Road, crossed the Castle Mill Stream, and disappeared to the west as I stood watching, quite lost, from the bridge. Why should I have been lovelorn over a lady who seemed to be another man’s wife? Who can know? I cannot. It seems foolish when I look back to the day. It did not seem so at the time.
I put the lady out of my mind. No; I lie. A beautiful woman is as impossible to put out of mind as a corn on one’s toe. And just as disquieting. I did try, however.
I returned to de Mondeville’s book and completed a third journey through its pages. I was confused, but t’was not de Mondeville’s writing which caused my perplexity. The profession I thought lay before me no longer appealed. Providing advice to princes seemed unattractive. Healing men’s broken and damaged bodies now occupied near all my waking thoughts.
I feared a leap into the unknown. Oxford was full to bursting with scholars and lawyers and clerks. No surprises awaited one who chose to join them. And the town was home also to many physicians, who thought themselves far above the barbers who usually performed the stitching of wounds and phlebotomies when such services were needed. Even a physician’s work, with salves and potions, was familiar. But the pages of de Mondeville’s book told me how little I knew of surgery, and how much I must learn should I chose such a vocation. I needed advice.
There is, I think, no wiser man in Oxford than Master John Wyclif. There are men who hold different opinions, of course. Often these are scholars Master John has bested in disputation. Tact is not one among his many virtues, but care for his students is. I sought him out for advice and found him in his chamber at Balliol College, bent over a book. I was loath to disturb him, but he received me warmly when he saw t’was me who rapped upon his door.
“Hugh . . . come in. You look well. Come and sit.”
He motioned to a bench, and resumed his own seat as I perched on the offered bench. The scholar peered silently at me, awaiting announcement of the reason for my visit.
“I seek advice,” I began. “I had it in mind to study law, as many here do, but a new career entices me.”
“Law is safe . . . for most,” Wyclif remarked. “What is this new path which interests you?”
“Surgery. I have a book which tells of old and new knowledge in the treatment of injuries and disease.”
“And from this book alone you would venture on a new vocation?”
“You think it unwise?”
“Not at all. So long as men do injury to themselves or others, surgeons will be needed.”
“Then I should always be employed.”
“Aye,” Wyclif grimaced. “But why seek my counsel? I know little of such matters.”
“I do not seek you for your surgical knowledge, but for aid in thinking through my decision.”
“Have you sought the advice of any other?”
“Then there is your first mistake.”
“Who else must I seek? Do you know of a man who can advise about a life as a surgeon?”
“Indeed. He can advise on any career. I consulted Him when I decided to seek a degree in theology.”
I fell silent, for I knew of no man so capable as Master John asserted, able to advise in both theology and surgery. Perhaps the fellow did not live in Oxford. Wyclif saw my consternation.
“Do you seek God’s will and direction?”
“Ah . . . I understand. Have I prayed about this matter, you ask? Aye, I have, but God is silent.”
“So you seek me as second best.”
“But . . . t’was you just said our Lord could advise on any career.”
“I jest. Of course I, like any man, am second to our Lord Christ . . . or perhaps third, or fourth.”
“So you will not guide my decision?”
“Did I say that? Why do you wish to become a surgeon? Do you enjoy blood and wounds and hurts?”
“No. I worry that I may not have the stomach for it.”
“I find the study of man and his hurts and their cures fascinating. And I . . . I wish to help others.”
“You could do so as a priest.”
“Aye. But I lack the boldness to deal with another man’s eternal soul.”
“You would risk a man’s body, but not his soul?”
“The body cannot last long, regardless of what a surgeon or physician may do, but a man’s soul may rise to heaven or be doomed to hell . . . forever.”
“And a priest may influence the direction, for good or ill,” Wyclif completed my thought.
“Just so. The responsibility is too great for me.”
“Would that all priests thought as you,” Wyclif muttered. “But lopping off an arm destroyed in battle would not trouble you?”
“T’is but flesh, not an everlasting soul.”
“You speak true, Hugh. And there is much merit in helping ease men’s lives. Our Lord Christ worked many miracles, did he not, to grant men relief from their afflictions. Should you do the same you would be following in his path.”
“I had not considered that,” I admitted.
“Then consider it now. And should you become a surgeon keep our Lord as your model and your work will prosper.”
And so God’s third wonder; a profession. I would go to Paris to study. My income from the manor at Little Singleton was L6, 15 shillings each year, to be awarded so long as I was a student, and to terminate after eight years.
My purse would permit one year in Paris. I know what you are thinking. But I did not spend my resources on riotous living. Paris is an expensive city. I learned much there. I watched, and then participated in dissections. I learned phlebotomy, suturing, cautery, the removal of arrows, the setting of broken bones, and the treatment of scrofulous sores. I learned how to extract a tooth and remove a tumor. I learned trepanning to relieve a headache, and how to lance a fistula. I learned which herbs might staunch bleeding, or dull pain, or cleanse a wound. I spent both time and money as wisely as I knew how, learning the skills which I hoped would one day earn me a living.
My Review: When I first opened Mel Starr's The Unquite Bones I was immediately drawn in by the cover. I had never seen an ancient prostheses. I'll tell you, THAT is by far one of the coolest covers I have ever seen. I was a bit concerned when I opened the book and saw a fairly extensive Glossary. My concern was that I was going to be turning back and forth from the story to the glossary throughout the book. I have never quite known how to handle a glossary. Do I read it first, or do I just dive into the story. My choice...browse through the glossary first so if something comes up, I know that I can jump over if necessary.
The Unquite Bones is an excellent medical mystery set in the 14th century. The book chronicles Hugh de Singleton's life as a student and then surgeon. I was thrilled with how completely thorough the research was on this book and locale. I could easily see with my mind the villiages, castle grounds, and even the cess pit area which brings our mystery into play.
Hugh de Singleton is perfectly likeable and believable. I have never enjoyed a historical tale so much, and to find that it is just the beginning of a series is so promising. This is a book that will tantalize you in the mystery, the locale, and the humor. If you like historical fiction and in particular Medieval fiction with mystery, you will not be disappointed. Any fan of fiction should enjoy this. This one kept me guessing where others have not. I think Mel Starr has completely knocked this one out of the park!